The Toast

My husband and I have been married for over one year, and what a year it has been! In honor of our one year anniversary, it is with great joy that I share with you a typed version of my father's toast on March 1st, 2014.

They say that when a man turns fifty he is much more prone to crying than when he was younger. As someone who crossed that milestone, let me tell you before I start that I will no doubt prove that point today.

My mom is not quite sure what my dad is going to say.
This past Christmas day as we gathered around to open up presents we were joined for the first time by Amber's fiance, Chris. I get to play Santa at our house and pass out the gifts. I did something a little different this time and took a few moments to talk about the year we just finished.

As I shared at the time, 2013 was a rough year for our family. I reminded everyone that in February my mom had some very serious health issues resulting in multiple hospital stays and frightening days for both her and my dad. In March, my wife was faced with the difficult task of transitioning her mom out of a home she had been in for over forty years into a retirement home. She then had to pack up the belongings and sell the family home before returning to Seattle.

Then in April, Amber experienced an Addisonian Crisis that nearly cost her her life. My wife spent almost two months with her as Amber sought answers and fought her way back to health. Once back in Seattle and we thought normalcy was returning, I unexpectedly lost my job in July and faced unemployment for the first time in my career. My son was not untouched either as his school workload expanded in difficulty as he progressed from undergraduate to graduate level MBA studies.

My younger brother graduated with his MBA in Aug of 2014.
Cause he's awesome like that.
About this time, Chris, who was sitting beside Amber, looked around like one of those bobble-head dogs you see in the rear windows of cars and said, "I don't know what you guys are talking about. 2013 was a GREAT year for me!" It was the perfect transition to begin opening presents and frankly, Chris's different view of his world in 2013 is why we are all here today. Chris knew something and believed it with all his heart. 2013 brought him a great prize and treasure and that treasure was sitting right beside him.

My running buddy. Forever.
Amber's been a treasure for her mom and me since the day she was born. As her name reflects, she is a precious jewel. One that glowed and caused you to marvel as you discovered more and more about it. Precocious doesn't begin to explain what it was like living with her growing up. She had (and has) an indomitable spirit that doesn't back down from anyone or anything.

Anne's face in this picture captures perfectly what any of my friends know.
I, many times, am quite difficult to get along with because of that "indomitable spirit."
A couple of quick stories to make this point. When she was about four years old, we were having an argument. This was a real debate about which I haven't a clue. I do recall that we were going back and forth in serious banter when finally I said to her, "Listen, you don't count!" An immediate change came over her. Her countenance dropped, her eyes began glassing over, and her bottom lipped started to quiver. She replied strongly, "I do too count. One. Two. Tree. Bour. Bive. Six. Seben." I got down on my knees, hugged her, and apologized. I told her I was wrong. She does count.

Oh I knew I counted. I could count up to seben!
Later, when her speech became clearer and her communication methodologies more diverse, she would express herself in order to ensure that everyone in the household knew how she felt about certain things. One of which was food that was cooked in the house. In fact, I still happen to have the document that she posted in the kitchen when she was around eleven or twelve. It was entitled "Quick and Easy List for Cooks of Foods I HATE."

Yes. My father kept this all these years.
This was a child who knew who she was, knew what she liked and didn't like, and had the strength of voice to tell others about it.

And he liked to bring it out every couple of years to remind me of my former wisdom.
You see, God knew something when he was creating Amber. He knew that she would have to face many challenges as she went through life and to face these challenges she would have to have tremendous strength beyond what most others are given. I've seen her use this strength, determination, and grit as she tackled cross-country in high school when it was discovered she was allergic to grass. I've seen her have to overcome the brain fog that is part of her life when the cortisol is low and still walk away with academic medals, awards, and scholarships. Nothing in life came easy to her and she never quit fighting to remain in her words Clearly Alive.

Which brings us to today. 2014 is already much better. My mom is sitting right over there and enjoying a rebound in her health. My mother-in-law is adjusting well to her new life and new home. My son is taking home A's in his MBA classes mastering finance, statistics, and accounting, and although I haven't found my new employer yet, I've enjoyed having the time to reconnect with both of my children these past few months. But the biggest 2014 highlight so far is Amber's marriage to Chris.

We've been married for a year!
Amber has married a man that God made uniquely and specifically for her. A man that has the thick skin needed when Amber posts her new bride food demands. She married a man that isn't scared away from her medical needs because as he told my wife and I, he had the Godly example of his own family who stood by each other through health trials as he was growing up. For that, I want to thank his parents for modeling to Chris what true love looks like.

To my husband's family, thank you for providing such a strong, multi-generation example of love.
The road ahead for Amber and Chris will be full of new opportunities, fun but with a few challenges along the way. One of which starts in about three days as they head to Kuala Lumpur for six months.

Now to the toast. As you begin life's journey as husband and wife, I want you both to know that you have my wife and my blessing. You have our love and support. And above all, you have God's protective hand over you.

PS- In May of 2014, my father began his new job.
He is no longer unemployed.
So I'd like everyone to raise a glass: To Chris and Amber. Long love. And great happiness.

My husband and I form one unified team.
Watch out world. We're going to change it.
All photos were taken by Rebekah Sampson Photography. Well, except for my list of foods that I hate. Those photos were taken by my father.

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